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5 Great Things About Traveling Long-Term in South America

The start of 2013 marked the official 2 year mark of my move to South America. Other than a few trips home, I have spent the majority of the last two years living and traveling around South America. In no particular order, here are just a few of the things I loved about this experience.

The Music

South America Travel

South America Travel – Salsa Dancing – Photo by dan_clements

I know, it seems a little silly to say I love the music. I most certainly didn’t love the horribly obnoxious music they played on the buses non stop in Peru but overall, I love that South Americans are so in love with music. You literally can’t walk half a block in most neighborhoods without hearing music pouring out of someone’s home. Nights are filled with salsa or tango or any of the other popular dance music songs. Music is not something to be made private with headphones but played loud for all to hear… even on the bus where people feel it’s completely fine to blast their favorite song from their phone.

It’s All About Who You Know

If you want to get something done in South America, you have to know someone who knows someone who can “take care of it.” As a result, people in South America are all about their “connections” and “networking.” It’s something that took some getting use to, as an gringo, who thought “networking” was a bit sleazy and about getting what you wanted out of people. Here it is more about helping out a friend or even a friend of a friend. It’s about the people taking back control and working their way around the system and the corruption that plagues it.

Cheap and Fresh Food

South America Travel

South America Travel – Fresh Market Food

Here in Colombia, every morning someone rolls a cart down the street, yelling “Pescado, Pescado” and selling fish literally caught that morning. The local market has bananas that look like they just got cut off the tree and the avocados, oh my, they are to die for. The best part? This is the cheap way to eat. I can stock up on “organic, locally grown” produce for less than half of what I pay back home for the bottom of the barrel beat-up fruits and veggies at my local Super-Walmart.

Friendly, Family Orientated People

When I first moved to South America, I was alone. In some places in the world, that might get lonesome but not in South America and not if you befriend a few locals. When you become good friends or start dating someone in Latin America, you basically get adopted by a whole family. I’d get a cold and suddenly I had abuelas (grandmothers) popping up everywhere, asking if I was ok, checking to see if I’d tried their family “cure.” I couldn’t even think of spending a holiday alone. I was always welcome at anyone’s dinner table and was honestly treated like one of the family.

Public Transportation

South America Travel

South America Travel – Public Transportation – Photo by juanpol

In South America, you could literally drop me off in the most remote area, in the middle of nowhere and I could get back to my house – only using public transportation. Cars are expensive here and most people don’t earn enough in even think about ever owning a car. The result is a public transportation system that would make the MTA in New York look like a joke. Need a ride to town? Stick out your arm and sooner than you’d think a share taxi or public bus will stop. Oh, and it’s all incredibly cheap as well. For someone who has always hated driving – this is heaven.

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